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Threads: Athletic - Villarreal, Alcoyano - Villarreal B

Bad Gonzalo. Just kidding.
Bad Gonzalo. Just kidding.

Two teams with significant ambitions in 2011-12. Two teams off to slow starts. Two teams about to play an important match: Athletic Bilbao hosts Villarreal today at the Catedral.

Villarreal cannot afford to look ahead to Napoli in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, as the Basques present matchup nightmares for our defenders. Expect Cristián Zapata to man mark Fernando Llorente around the box. That encounter should govern our ability to record a clean sheet, as Ander Herrera is out for Athletic.

Juan Carlos Garrido has taken the same 18 players to Bilbao. And we've created a new formation: the 4-1-2-1-2. Thanks, Jonathan de Guzmán. Ángel López continues to recover from his surgery, while Gerard Bordas, Joan Oriol, and Hernán Pérez were omitted.

The B team visits Alcoyano at the same time, continuing its "gauntlet" of promoted sides. The results have not been so great: a home loss to Sabadell and a miraculous draw against Guadalajara. We play Real Murcia in mid-October to finish off the quartet.

Manager José Molina has 18 players at his disposal. Dorian Dervite is suspended (thankfully?), so Florian Lejeune should make his long-awaited debut.

Both matches start at 12 noon Eastern Time (yet again, and I hate this time slot). Endavant Villarreal!